Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Carton Labeled Winter

Most of our land-based friends think of boating as a summertime activity, so "What do you do in winter?" is a common question. In a flippant mood, Dan will sometimes answer "turn up the heat, just like you do. We do, after all, have electricity." The second question is generally "what about ice?" Too many movies, perhaps - I think they have dramatic visions of our hull getting crushed like an egg between icebergs. The docks have bubblers to keep the water agitated and bring the warm water up from the bottom, to keep ice from forming. Actually, those bubblers protect the docks more than they protect the boats. If ice freezes around the pilings, and the water rises during high tide, the pilings could be pulled out. But the boats need little protection, we float up with the ice. As long as there aren't strong currents crashing slabs of ice into us, we're fine. And here in the creek, we're pretty sheltered - it's too calm for that doomsday scenario.

Last month we went on vacation for two weeks, and when we came back it was definitely no longer autumn. We went to the shed and removed the box labeled "winter." In it are scarves and gloves, Xmas lights and small space heaters, and we prepared to hunker down for another episode of living aboard in winter.
When winter comes, we turn the boat with its bow to the northwest, in the direction of the strongest anticipated winds. Luckily in our case, this also puts the stern to the dock for safer, easier access - although easier is a relative term. Even the lightest dusting of snow or frost can make the dock very slick, and a fall into that chilly water while weighted down with winter, rather not think about it. So we have yaktrax cleats from an outdoor store to put over our shoes when going ashore in the morning. Actually, 2 pairs - one on the boat, for going ashore; and one in the car in case it starts snowing while we're at work, so we can get back aboard. Long periods of strong winds from the north can also blow the water out of the bay. This seiche can be much more extreme than the mild tidal fluctuations we ordinarily get here in the Chesapeake. Because our docks are at a fixed elevation, when the water level drops so dramatically it can be a real challenge getting on or off the boat. The dock is waaay up there overhead and you can't simply step off. Hmmm, a novel reason to call in and skip work for a day? My equivalent to being snowed in - being seiched in?

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